The following account was contributed by a volunteer writer who attended the meeting
ENGLEWOOD, July 27, 2018 — Anyone visiting a Southwest Florida beach can smell something is wrong. Local news stations and newspapers have noticed. And they are publishing and broadcasting stories almost daily about severe algae blooms and fish kills.
Red tide is an algae bloom that causes breathing problems for humans. It also kills fish and marine life and fouls the beaches. The stench drives away visitors.
Red tide is naturally-occurring and has been observed in these waters since the days of the Spanish Conquistadors. In previous years, a red tide outbreak would occur for a few days and dissipate. This year, the red tide has lingered here for months.
Many people earning their livelihood on the water, including fishing boat and tour boat operators, paddle board and kayak guides, and waterfront restaurants are losing business. Businesses and concerned citizens are forming groups to combat these health risks.
More than 200 people gathered at Skip’s Marina Friday in Placida to meet and learn about clearing the waters. The meeting was organized by Rachel Wells, owner of Ride the Waves, a boat rental and tour guide, and Capt. Dave Spargurs, owner of Capt. Dave Spargurs Tours, a fishing and tour charter operator.
A key goal of the meeting was to prepare for a rally at Robarts Arena in Sarasota on Saturday. The “Red Tide Rally” will be held outside the arena while the Republican Party of Sarasota County is holding its 2018 Primary Election and Candidate Rally & Straw Poll inside.
The meeting in Englewood Friday included sign making, and discussions about how to talk with the media and general public. Rachel stressed the importance of speaking knowledgeably about the facts. “If asked a question by the media or others, please speak only if you are confident, and factually,” Rachel said. “Spreading misinformation is worse than not speaking.”
Capt. Josh Greer cautioned the crowd to be careful about how to act at the Sarasota rally. “Speak from the heart, and from your experience. But don’t start screaming. They’ll disregard you. This is a rally, not a protest,” Capt. Josh said.
Other speakers talked about how road building and development cut the natural water flows so that waters become stagnant. Several speakers likened the problem to a clogged toilet. Fertilizer, pesticides and other chemicals are washed by rain into waterways, and then flow to the coasts, poisoning sea life.
A couple of speakers talked about “following the money” and checking which corporations donate to political candidates.
Organizing and talking to elected officials is important and works, said a spokesperson for Residents of Charlotte Harbor Estuary, a newly formed group. A major victory to stop the expansion of phosphate mining in Desoto County was scored a few days earlier. “We didn’t have a vote in Desoto County, but we had a voice.” The group presented factual material about how the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor would be affected. The group was later told that their testimony was a key reason why the county commissioners defeated the mining expansion.
Another speaker said that he grew up in the area, and how he enjoyed living here. He now has a family and children. “I want them to have what I had.”
The following are organizations that are involved with clean water
Rachel Wells Riding the Waves https://www.facebook.com/RidingTheWavesFL/videos/2122134721399221/
The Phosphate Risk http://www.thephosphaterisk.com/
Residents of Charlotte Harbor Estuary https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=residents%20of%20charlotte%20county%20estuary
Calusa River Waterkeeper http://www.calusawaterkeeper.org/
Florida Conservation Voters https://www.facebook.com/FCVoters/